Top 9 Strength Training & Lifting Mistakes.

Improper form is just one of the many mistakes that exercisers tend to make.

I’ve been going to the gym long enough to have seen it all. And though I often have the urge to point out the mistakes of the gym-goers around me, I resist the urge to be that guy. But since you’ve actively solicited my advice, there’s certainly no reason to hold back.

Here are 9 of the most common strength training mistakes that I’ve encountered.

  1. Using momentum. This is huge, and I see it all the time. When you perform a movement for an exercise, it creates momentum. When reversing directions, this momentum can be used to cheat. Unfortunately, it’s not using muscle power - and so this type of cheating should be eliminated. A simple trick is to pause for a second or two before reversing directions - this will absorb the momentum.
  2. Wrong number of reps. The number of reps that you perform for an exercise is entirely dependent on your fitness goals. If you want size, you should probably aim for 4 - 10 repetitions of each exercise. If you want definition, increased endurance or strength (and not size), then you should probably shoot for 10 - 15 repetitions. Whether you are going for 4 or 15 repetitions, you should be fully fatigued on your last rep. And that brings us to our next mistake…
  3. Improper weight. Using the right amount of weight is important. Unless you are just looking to maintain what you’ve got - and not progress - then you should be fully fatigued on your last rep. If you feel like you could do another rep or two, then the weight is too light. Bump it up.
  4. Not progressing. If you’re looking to increase your size or strength, it means you’re going to need to progress to higher levels of resistance over time. Muscles don’t grow unless they are forced to grow - and doing more of the same will only get you more of the same. I recommend the 2 for 2 rule to help know when it’s time to increase the weight.
  5. Doing the same workout each day. A lot of exercisers try to train every muscle group each time they hit the gym. While this is an especially poor practice if you go to the gym often (it can result in over-training), all people will benefit from focusing on different muscle groups on different days. Instead of trying to train every muscle in 45 minute (and not really hit any of them hard), focusing on just a muscle group or two can give you an effective, deep workout.
  6. Not adding variety. Many of us get into workout routines that we like, and then we stick to it. Unfortunately, our muscles adjust to our routines - and stale routines make plateaued results more likely. Try switching things up - change the base of stability, order of your exercises or even try something new.
  7. Improper form. Improper form goes beyond the momentum-based cheating mentioned above. It covers anything from incorrect postures to not using a full range of motion. Compromised form means compromised results. If you think you may be using improper form, then work with a personal trainer - or, at the very least, perform an internet search to see the exercise performed properly.
  8. Resting too long. For most of us, 45 - 60 seconds of rest in between sets does the trick. But those seconds tick by quickly, and it’s easy to take a bit of a cat nap. Watch the clock to make sure you’re not resting too long - it will make your workout much more efficient.
  9. Exercising during pain. If it hurts, stop! Delayed onset soreness is good and healthy - but if you’re experiencing pain while lifting, something isn’t right. Continuing to exercise while in pain is a recipe for serious injury. Moreover, if a muscle is still sore from a previous workout, then it is too soon to train it again. Hold off until the muscle heals.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. AXOLOTL15 says:

    Great tips! It’s frustrating to see a lot of people fail to follow these at my gym. I once saw an old guy who literally humped the air every time he lifted the barbell while doing bicep curls. That’s when bad form turns offensive (or sexy?).

    • It’s also a tough call offering advice. It’s almost one of those “if I wanted your two cents, I would have asked for it” type of things.

      • I understand both sides of the “don’t offer advice unless asked for”, but when I see someone doing something that could potentially cause damage I say something. Weight-training injuries take a LONG time to recover and the last thing I need is having the knowledge that I could have helped prevent someone from hurting themselves. But, if they’re just doing bad form (swinging the weight or using momentum)…that’s tough…they’re just not going to get results. 🙂

      • I think it totally depends on how you present yourself. If you just come up to some and say something like “Yo dummy, you’re doing that wrong” you’re likely to get a snide reply, but if you introduce yourself and express genuine concern, you’re likely to get a more positive response. “Hi, my name is Joe, how are you doing today? Would you mind if I give you a small pointer on improving your form?” maybe even use personal experience too “I once tore my biceps tendon lifting the dumbbells that quickly” (for example)

        • AXOLOTL15 says:

          I agree, I guess it all depends on how you approach it. When I was starting out a guy at my gym literally scolded me disdainfully when I did a mistake on an exercise once. I don’t care if he was genuinely concerned for my well being, his lack of tact and cocky attitude pissed me off and made me want to drop the barbell on his dick.

  2. Biceps curl pictures: the spine is a one-way hinge meant for bending, not excessive arching (hyperextension). Bending opens up the spaces between the vertebrae, while arching — especially when attempting to move something heavy like a dumbbell or barbell — compacts the space between the vertebrae and can damage the cartilage disks between them (“slipped” or “herniated” disk). The displaced disk in turn puts pressure on the nerve roots leaving the spine.

    The curve of the low back, between lumbar vertebrae 4 and 5 (L4-5)and sacral vertebra 1 (S1) are the spaces most at risk for disk injury. These are the roots of the sciatic nerve, and are the cause of sciatica, which is a real pain-in-the-ass! The pain isn’t confined to the back, but instead ‘radiates’ throughout the entire distribution of the sciatic nerve, down to the foot.

    Every time I see someone hyperextending their low back in order to get out that last biceps curl rep or, worse still, that last heavy bench press, I see sciatica waiting to happen.

    There are ways to prevent yourself from doing this:

    Biceps: sitting will generally prevent you from arching your back. If standing, bending your knees slightly will also prohibit this movement. Instead of arching to get out that last rep, you bend into it. It’s not so much cheating as spotting yourself.

    Bench: I always bench press in a fetal position, with my legs in the air. This way, my back lies perfectly flat against the bench. It also isolates the lift so that it’s just my pectorals and deltoids doing the work.

    Of course if you’re lifting heavy, always have a spotter.

  3. danishguyky says:

    For a standing overhead press, I sometimes use momentum to press up over my head. For example, I push up onto my toes, giving me that extra “oomf” as I press upward. Does that count as cheating?

  4. Very Helpful Sharing and Informative For The Beginners